SPOTLIGHT: Mother’s Unbearable Itch by Janette Schafer

Poisoned Leg

Blackened skin, black ash

of derma crusting

black pumice.  Liquid leg

liquid lava.

There is no light in

the limb now, only black

and mottled purple.

Sickly yellow

marks of green

pick the scabbing wound

knee gives way to nub

gives way to dying.

Previously published by VerseWrights.


Her venom loosed, a charmed cobra

dances and sways to a hollow flute;

spits death as everyone wipes their eyes.

There is little pleasure to be had now.

We have said, Let us not speak ill

of those who have passed-on before.

The viper shakes the rattle.

I do not grieve her.

I will not grieve her.

She holds his seed.

Death seeks her out—

a fitting companion.

An earlier version was previously published by Red Eft Review


She walked on hot coals

bare feet on embers,

slid down a rock-face

inches before waterfall abyss,

stood naked before a lover

with full, round belly—

saggy swaying breasts

pinned herself—

yellow skinned—

to a hospital bed,

stomach filled with bile

liver distended, pancreas diseased,

kidneys sputtering to spit

a pool of bloody piss

cut her womb wide open

uterus swollen and leaking,

fell to hands and knees

so often that her limbs

were meaty stumps of crimson.

A snake, she shed her skin,

body cut on rock, split away,

her new growth, an open wound.

An earlier version was previously published by Eunoia Review

Female Pattern Baldness

As a child, Grandma made

my clothes, picked colorful swatches

from fabric stores.  Girls in

Jordache Jeans kicked mud

on my flowery pantsuits.

We drove our Pinto station wagon

to garage sales in nice neighborhoods.

I was 13 and it was That Dress

fitting just so on my young breasts,

upturned, floating, proud.

Later in homeroom, Tammy

with her snapping gum sneers,

Bitch, you’re wearing my trash.

During gym class, I throw her penny loafers

in the toilet, my only detention

and totally worth it.

At 44 it is no different.

I’m dragged to a wig shop by mother,

my giant head stretching the cap

of thick Barbie-doll hair.

An earlier version previously published by Eunoia Review


A fleeting view of a long skirt

wispy over ankles, a swish

and caress of fabric, tick-tick-tick

of leather high-heeled boots

spine sharp, stiff and angry

A cauldron, lidded and boiling,

steam hisses out pores,

an envious flea bites beneath

a high-necked collar,

ecstasy drinks hot red blood,

turns the brown husk ruddy,

gluts itself on irritated skin,

plasma drench

flesh inflamed

with unbearable itch

starchy cotton bears

into the fleshy wound

this most tender of throats

An earlier version previously published by Mad Swirl

Mother in her youth

She told me about

the commune,

how they sat together

in a warehouse space

two weeks of every year

drank Darjeeling tea

while writing shitty poems

and making free love

beneath an industrial ceiling,

whispered suspicions

of who among them

might be the next Kerouac.

I romanticize this version of Mother,

a neophyte bent over

a pile of handwritten pages,

plowed by a bearded anonymous lover.

Mother writes to Henry Miller

Henry, take me to Paris

or let me find you there.

I will be a rich, bored wife

with sad weepy eyes, a fat wallet

and an ache to lie beneath you

because I’m tired of the rest.

I will be a Russian writer

deluded that love exists

apart from tragedy.

I’ll take your values as my own,

toss and turn with lust and guilt

beneath you before you set me free.

I will be a Parisian whore

cheap and base and gleeful,

hold my pussy in my hands,

offer my sweet fuzzy muff

like an itch to be scratched.

I will be the sniveling fat spouse

of a sniveling nasty man

who feeds your need with my food

and money.  You’ll sleep on a cot

in our house. I’ll hate you,

and you’ll hate me

but we’ll fuck anyway.

I will be a lonely artist,

feast my starving body

on the banquet of your words.

They will be too rich for me

but I will eat them as I offer myself.

You will call me by name

until you eat of my body,

then I will be “Cunt” like

every woman you’ve slept with

in your books and dreams.

An earlier version previously published by Writer’s Post Journal

Mother’s Unbearable Itch: Schafer, Janette, Elizabeth, Renee, Buddha, Alien: 9798718865394: Books


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